U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross Addresses Commerce Department Employees
Good morning, everyone. You don't have to stand for me. For those of you who don't know me, my name is Ellen Herbst and I have the great honor to introduce our new Secretary of Commerce this morning.
But before I start, I want to acknowledge someone else who has joined us. Mrs. Ross is in the audience with us today. Let's give her a warm round of applause. We all know that it takes a family to do this job, so we appreciate you sharing Mr. Ross with all of us. Thank you.
Mr. Ross, Secretary Ross, was sworn in by the Vice President yesterday as the 39th Secretary of Commerce. He is a graduate of Yale University and of the Harvard Business School with distinction. Now here's a fun Commerce fact. While a student at Harvard, he worked part-time for the Census Bureau as an enumerator. And this is a first for a Secretary of Commerce, and Census is one of the first bureau briefings up today. So good luck Census.
Mr. Ross has an enormous amount of experience to do this job. He is the former Chairman and Chief Strategy Officer at WL Ross & Co. LLC, and has over 55 years of investment banking and private equity experience. He has restructured over $400 billion dollars of assets in a list of industries that is too long to enumerate, but I'll give you a couple of examples, starting with the letter "A." Airlines, apparels, auto parts, on to banking – I'll skip some of the letters of the alphabet, of the industries he has had experience in – but homebuilding, marine transportation, car manufacturing, real estate, restaurants, shipyards, and trucking industry. And I can go on. He has also been the chairman or lead director of more than 100 companies operating in more than 20 different countries, so he certainly has the requisite international experience for a Secretary of Commerce.
Secretary Ross was named by Bloomberg Markets as one of the "50 Most Influential People in Global Finance." He is the only person elected to both the Private Equity Hall of Fame and the Turnaround Management Hall of Fame. He previously served as Privatization Advisor to New York City Mayor Giuliani and was appointed by President Bill Clinton to the board of the U.S.-Russia Investment Fund. The President of South Korea awarded Mr. Ross a medal for helping South Korea during its financial crisis, and in November 2014 the Emperor of Japan awarded him the Order of the Rising Sun Gold and Silver Star. He is also – and I don't know where he finds the time – he is also a noted philanthropist. He has recently served as the chairman of the Japan Society, as the trustee of the Brookings Institution, chairman of the Economic Studies Council, the International Board of the Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris, the Blenheim Foundation, the Magritte Museum in Brussels, and the Palm Beach Civic Association. He was also an advisory board member of the Yale University School of Management. So, we believe he also has the requisite energy to lead this vast and diverse department.
Will you please join me in welcoming our new Secretary, Secretary Ross.
It’s nice to have such a stirring eulogy while you’re still alive to enjoy it. Thank you, Ellen, for that kind introduction. And thank all of you for joining me today for the beginning of what will be a period of revival across our country and a special renaissance for the Department of Commerce.
Let me first introduce my lovely wife Hilary. She has been incredibly supportive during the whole confirmation process that took some several months – seemed like a couple hundred years.
I am the only Commerce Secretary ever to have been an enumerator before. And, in fact, before I became an enumerator while working my way through school, I didn’t know what one was. But now I do.
So I am particularly honored to have been given the opportunity to serve alongside all of you as we work to make America more competitive and to improve the lives of working men and women across this country.
Wasn’t that a great speech from the President last night?
I thought it was one of the most inspiring speeches I’ve ever heard, and I think it augers well for the new administration.
President Trump laid down a challenge we must all meet: to dream big, to renew the American spirit that made this country great and to pursue a bold agenda that will create opportunity across America.
I have known President Trump for many years, and I have seen first-hand his deep love for this country. Under his leadership, we are going to implement policies that finally put American workers first – a simple idea that has taken a back seat for far too long.
To that end, President Trump has already given us at the Department more responsibility than ever before. If we perform well both at our normal tasks and at our new assignments, I have no doubt that our scope will continue to expand.
To start, we will be more involved with rebalancing a trade system that has gutted American manufacturing and left families across America without work and without hope.
The President has announced that we will play a major role in renegotiating bad trade deals like NAFTA as the Administration seeks to institute a system of both free and fair trade that protects American workers and American companies.
Since the signing of NAFTA, America has lost more than a quarter of its manufacturing jobs and we have run up a trade deficit in goods, globally, that reached 800 billion dollars last year.
But under President Trump’s leadership, we will work to realize the imperative put forth by Benjamin Franklin that is enshrined on the side of this particular building.
The inscription reads, quote, “commerce among nations must be fair and equitable.”
Those are wise words for the 21st century.
President Trump has also said that we will play a key role in his historic effort to relieve the crushing burden of regulation that has shifted American economic growth overseas and made us uncompetitive on the world stage.
For every new regulation the government creates, we will eliminate two old ones.
Charged with being the voice of American business, our Department has the important task of identifying where the burdens on our economy are too great and where our innovators need more latitude in order to unleash their ingenuity.
As impactful as these efforts will be for working families across America, there are many more crucial functions that our Department performs.
Our team of 47,000 devoted staff members cannot neglect the challenges of:
- changed methodology for the 2020 Census
- launching more satellites for NOAA
- getting FirstNet universally accepted
- finding and auctioning more spectrum
- enforcing trade agreements
- obtaining maximum sustainable yield for our fisheries
- improving the timeliness, accuracy, breadth and depth of our data output
- providing the expertise and capital necessary to spur growth and innovation in communities across America
- setting standards for our increasingly technical society, and
- protecting intellectual property rights
We must build upon the hard work many of you have done in support of Privacy Shield, and, as we move from Black History Month into Women’s History Month, we must amplify our impact in underserved communities.
One of the first steps in supporting these efforts will be securing adequate appropriations from the Congress. In a period of budgetary constraint, that will be a major challenge.
With that in mind, I was very impressed by the way Ellen has performed as Acting Secretary, and I think we should give her a big hand for stepping into the breach.
I especially strongly support her initiative to improve the quality and value of our H.R. functions We must accelerate this process and set an example for other departments to follow.
Commerce is already regarded as one of the best places at which to work in the entire federal government. My goal is to overcome NASA as the very best employer.
But that doesn't mean we won't also strive for greater operational efficiency. We must and, with your help and your commitment to excellence, we will.
A few rules of the road are essential.
First, there will be no tolerance for any kind of prejudice or inappropriate behavior of any sort – None!
Second, material in preparation for meetings must be concise. A few pages that are substantive will get you much farther with me than thick binders with lots of repetition, pretty blue pages, and fluff.
Third, if a problem is developing, we will work together to solve it ourselves. I can take bad news if I learn about it from inside our Department and I will stand alongside all of you as we confront whatever challenges may arise.
Similarly, I will be quite open to dissent at meetings, but once the decision has been made, we must act with unanimity, both internally and externally.
As John Hancock famously said, “We must hang together because, if we do not, we shall surely all be hanged separately.”
Finally, I expect people will be on time for meetings. All of us are too busy to waste time on latecomers.
Of course, the Senate has kept us all waiting these last few weeks for my confirmation, so now let’s all get to work!
Thank you very much.